By Ellson Quismorio
Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Monday frowned over the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) failure to disburse a single centavo from its P250-million subsidy intended for medical students in state universities and colleges.
This, as Hataman tries to find ways to increase the number of government doctors in the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in order to improve the delivery of healthcare services to local folk.
“The municipalities, cities and provinces that make up BARMM are some of the poorest areas in our country today. And because of this, we also have some of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios…BARMM could use more Moro doctors,” Hataman underscored.
“Kaya mahirap lunukin ang katotohanan na may pondo para pag-aralin ang mga gustong mag-doktor pero walang naging iskolar noong 2018 (That’s why it’s hard to accept that there was a fund for medical scholars in 2018 and yet nobody became a scholar),” he said, referring to the Student Financial Assistance Program and Tuition Subsidy for Medical Students.
Hataman said he knows for a fact that many people from his province want to become doctors but don’t have the money needed to go through medical school, which is costly.
“I call on CHED to be proactive in seeking medical scholars who will stay in the barrios once they become doctors,” the Basilan solon said, adding that CHED plays a huge part in increasing the number of doctors in BARMM.
In 2011, the then-ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) average of the doctor-to-patient ratio was 1:45,224, with Basilan having a 1:58,664 rate, according to figures from the Mindanao Development Authority and the Department of Health (DOH).
Recent data shows that the ARMM average is now at 1:45,197, with Basilan having at least seven doctors serving a population of 346,579. The national average is at 1:33,000.
“Add these low figures to the fact that six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor and we can surmise the sorry state of our healthcare system not only in ARMM, but in other poor areas in the country as well. This has to change and it has to change now,” reckoned Hataman.
The former ARMM governor said CHED should study why there were no medical scholars in 2018 when many young Moros wanted to be doctors.
“Kailangan paigtingin ang information drive, o kaya ang CHED na mismo ang lumapit sa mga estudyante (We need to step up the information drive, or have CHED itself approach the students).”
The Commission on Audit (COA) recently hit CHED for the underutilization of its budget on vital educational projects, including the subsidy for medical students. In 2018, of the P250-million allotment for the program, only P55.87 million was obligated, but no actual disbursement was made.
According to a COA report, CHED explained that students did not pursue the subsidy under the program and opted for the DOH’s more comprehensive scholarship instead. This covered included lab fees, miscellaneous and other allowances.
“If this is true, then CHED should adapt to the changes and be more responsive to the needs of students. Kung kailangan ng legislative action, then tell us. Kung kailangan ng executive intervention, then go through the proper channel. Hindi yung nasasayang ang pondo. Marami sanang natulungan ang P250 milyon noong 2018, kasama na ang BARMM,” Hataman said.
(If legislative action is needed, then tell us. If executive intervention is needed, the go through the proper channel. But let’s not waste the funds. The P250 million could have aided a lot in 2018, including the BARMM.)